Sunday, September 14, 2008

The cost of magic

I knew nothing about this book before reading it, and I think that is one of the reasons it worked so well for me. So I will reveal as little as possible about the plot in this review. The story is told from multiple points of view, starting out with Reason, a fifteen-year-old Australian girl who's spent her entire life moving from place to place with her mother. They are on the run from Reason's grandmother, who, from the stories Reason's mother has told her, is a wicked, deluded woman who believes she has magical powers, and she wants custody of Reason.

The book opens with Reason, terrified in her grandmother's car, being taken to her grandmother's house. She refuses to speak to her grandmother, and she knows she must find a way to escape. But how to rescue her mother, who has now been admitted to a mental hospital?

Of course there is more to her grandmother than meets the eye, and possibly less truth in her mother's stories about her horrible childhood. Or is there? Reason is flung into a world that she never imagined, having lived in remote villages in the Australian outback her entire life. She meets Tom, her grandmother's teenaged neighbor, who seems to worship the ground her grandmother walks on, and before long finds herself swept away to another world, where everything is cold and snowy, and there are dangers to be feared even more than her grandmother.

I loved this book, its intriguing premise about magic, the characters, the dialog, the pacing. It drew me in immediately, and the point-of-view shifts were an effective way of giving the story depth and tension. Often I take a little break between reading books in the same series, but I couldn't wait to see what happened with Reason and her friends, so I picked up the next volume of the trilogy as soon as I finished this one (review to follow). I highly recommend this book - it's definitely going to be on my list of favorites read this year!

Books in the Magic or Madness trilogy:

1. Magic or Madness
2. Magic Lessons
3. Magic's Child

Magic or Madness (#1 in the Magic or Madness trilogy) by Justine Larbalestier (Firebird Books, 2005)

Also reviewed at:
A Reader's Year
The Holly and the Ivy


  1. I've heard good things about this series. I hope you enjoy the rest of them!!!

  2. What a cool name, Reason! I've enjoyed your other recommendations, so I'll be looking into this one, as well. Thanks!

  3. Ladytink - I'm way behind on my reviews, but I have finished the trilogy, and I really loved it!

    Fuzzycricket - I love her name too, and it fits perfectly in with the book and its premise. I hope you enjoy it if you give it a try - and I'm glad you've liked my recommendations. I know every book isn't for everyone, and I get book recommendation stress sometimes! :-)

  4. This is my first visit to your fun-to-read blog about books!

    The Magic trilogy sounds like a good series--my pre-teen daughter and I love to read series books. (I'm currently reading all of the books in The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, and my daughter is on book two by Stephenie Meyer, New Moon.)

  5. Darla - Book recommendation stress. I can totally relate! I know that people bring their own perspectives to a book, but it still makes it nerve wracking when I mention a book and someone wants to read it, just because I thought it was good. Yikes!

    I don't get offended, though, if I don't like a book people love. So, no pressure from me, at least. *grin*

  6. Suko - thanks for stopping by! That's great that you and your daughter enjoy reading books together. I hope my girls will continue loving books as they get older. I read the first No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book and enjoyed it. One of these days I'll have to get around to reading the rest!

    Fuzzycricket - ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one! :-) And I'm the same way - I would never be annoyed at someone for recommending a book I didn't like as much. I just worry the other way around!

  7. I LOVED Magic and Madness, and thought it was really well plotted with good characters and plotting,and that it avoided some obvious cliches. I didn't find the second one as tightly written, and so I've hesitated before trying the third.

  8. I have finished the trilogy, and I think I see what you mean about the second book. It was more of a bridge book between the first and third, I think, and possibly suffered because of it. Not enough to put me off reading the third - and I'm glad I did! I think the conclusion was very well set up during the first two books and worked very well - leaving an opening, of course, for further books, but with a definite feel of a satisfying ending. I'll be curious to hear what you think if you read #3!

  9. It's very rare for me to read a book knowing nothing about it, but I love when it happens. :)

    Thanks for the link, Darla!

  10. Cuileann- thanks for stopping by! I enjoyed reading your review. :-)

    I hate spoilers so much that I usually only read the first sentence or two of the cover flap, and if it's an author I already know and love, I just start reading. The worst is when people tell me there's a twist that is so shocking - I spend the whole time trying to figure out what the twist is, which kind of defeats the purpose.

  11. Agree - that is no good at ALL. (I moderate at the Shannon Hale fan forum, which means enforcing the spoiler-marking policy, so I have learned to properly loathe spoilers...heh.)

  12. Ooh, a spoiler enforcer, I love it! Feel free to patrol around here! Do you get a snazzy uniform? :-D

  13. Cool this is a new series to me so thanks for that. Great to hear it is in your top picks for this year. Will add it to my list and send you the bill ;)

  14. Yep - your bill is all the books that get put on my book pile after I visit your blog! :-D

    I do think you'll enjoy these. I can't wait to hear what you think!


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